There are two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, according to director of public health Caroline McElnay.
The numbers come as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern thanked Aucklanders, who come out of lockdown tonight – but also urged them to “keep going” and do their part to keep the virus contained.
And she had a warning, too: New Zealand will move back up alert levels if necessary.
Ardern also expressed anger about botched testing communications. Despite official advice issued on the Government’s Covid-19 Facebook page last night, she said everyone in south and west Auckland did not need to get a test.
Both of the new cases are in the community and are linked to the Auckland cluster. One is a household contact of one of the already infected people.
The other is linked to a Tokoroa case – they worked at a medical centre. That centre is closed while it is being cleaned. There are two other sites open in Tokoroa.
The person lived alone and has no household contacts.
There are 10 people with Covid-19 currently in hospital in New Zealand, two are in ICU.
There are 136 active cases in New Zealand – 117 are in the community.
That means there have been 1378 Covid-19 cases in New Zealand, and 750,000 tests to date.
McElnay urged people who are advised to take a Covid-19 test to do so. Tests are free.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were still cases coming through in the Auckland cluster.
“We do expect that to continue,” she said, adding the tail of this cluster “will be long”.
Ardern said 268,000 tests had been done since the cluster was identified, and 2475 people had been contacted since the new outbreak.
“We are still dealing with a single source, and a single cluster.”
However, that source was yet to be identified, Ardern said.
She said there had been no links found to managed isolation facilities.
She said it was “highly likely” more Covid-19 cases would be found in the Mt Roskill mini cluster.
She said the Government had always said NZ could be in level 2 when there is an active cluster, and that our systems are good and designed for the scenario in place at the moment.
However, Ardern said the system only worked if people played their part, and thanked Aucklanders but asked them to “keep going” as “no corner” of Auckland had been untouched by the cluster.
After 18 days, Auckland moves out of level 3 lockdown at midnight tonight – to what is essentially level 2.5.
That means social gatherings will be limited to 10 people – “I cannot express how important that is,” Ardern said.
“If we want to stop the spread, we need to stop socialising for some time”.
From tomorrow, masks need to be worn on all form of public transport by people older than 12, and Ardern urged Aucklanders to follow those rules.
“Basically, when you step out of your home … we are asking you to wear a mask.”
She would not rule out mandating the use of masks if people don’t wear them.
Ardern said she had “trust in her team of five million” when it comes to whether or not Government will mandate the wearing of masks.
She said there would be tight restrictions on aged-care facilities.
She asked Aucklanders not to attend mass gatherings across the country, and said people needed to use their common sense.
She said it was “highly unlikely” there was Covid outside Auckland and “we want to keep it that way”.
Ardern said the Government was stepping up its response and outlined that having a Covid QR code in a business is mandatory.
She asked anyone with cold or flu symptoms to get a test, and said people without symptoms would be asked to take a test in parts of Auckland.
Ardern said: “We will step up levels again if we need to.”
But she said if people play their part, that won’t need to happen.
“We need the team of five million to help us get back where we need to be. Our system is only as good as our people,” Ardern said.
Ardern said the Government had “stepped up our expectations” of Aucklanders.
However, she said the messaging was “wrong” about people in South Auckland and West Auckland needing to get a test, even if they had no symptoms.
She said the top line message was an “oversimplification” and she was “incredibly angry” about it. There was an attempt to keep a message simple, and it had been done “badly”.
“We are not asking every single person in West and South Auckland to get a test.”
We are not asking 700,000 people to get a test.” she said. “It was a mistake.”
Ardern said not all of the communication is signed off by her.
She said it “has to be the case” that this does not happen again. “We just can’t afford to have messages likes this to go out.”
She said she would work with the All of Government department to fix the issue.
When told the information was still on social media posts, Ardern said the team had been advised “some hours ago” that this information was wrong – so she would be “following up” with them.
Ardern made it clear it was the fault of the All of Government Covid-19 team. She said the information seen in the ads and the post was not made on the podium from a Government Minister.
She said she was taking her “last questions” at the press conference so she could go and fix the issue.
She said it has not been reported to her that testing sites have been overloaded.
And despite some public health experts saying it was too soon to move Auckland into level 2 tonight, Ardern said the Ministry of Health has not advised Cabinet that the move was premature.
Auckland will join the rest of New Zealand in level 2 at 11.59pm. It had been previously said those levels will be reviewed on September 6.
Ardern extended level 3 for four days on Monday but Health Minister Chris Hipkins this morning confirmed the lockdown would not be extended again.
The Government took out ads in major Sunday newspapers today advising that Auckland would go to level 2 tomorrow.
“The key thing for us is looking at that cluster – are all the cases within the cluster, are they known and identified? The evidence so far is yes, they are,” Hipkins told MediaWorks radio earlier.
This is a major element of the Government’s Covid-19 containment plan – at the moment, all the active cases, bar one, have been linked to the Auckland cluster.
That one case, a maintenance worker at one of the isolation hotels, is still under investigation.
But the level 2 is likely to be different from the one Aucklanders have experienced in the past.
Hipkins this morning said it would be more like a level 2.5 for a while – meaning there would be more emphasis put on masks and limiting public gatherings.
He also confirmed that today’s Covid-19 case numbers would be “slightly lower” than yesterday’s 13.
“That’s encouraging,” he said, but would not say exactly how many.